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Everything you need to know about the UK’s “porn ban”

With the UK Tory government pressing ahead with its porn ban, we asked Alastair Graham, Chair of the Age Verification Providers Association and CEO of AgeChecked on what we should know before the ban comes into place in July.

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New rules mean that you will have to prove you are over the age of 18 – and be on a database, in order to view porn from mid-July. Users will need to, from 15th July 2019, prove that they are over the age of 18 with official documents such as a driver’s license, passport or an age verification card. One of the systems in place is called the AgeID system another is called AVSecure. Alastair Graham, Chair of the Age Verification Providers Association and CEO of AgeChecked answers some questions on what you’ll need to do come mid-July.

How will the porn ban work?

Whenever a UK IP address attempts to access a website with age-restricted content, the user will have to verify they are over 18. They will not be able to view explicit content until they have proven their age.

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The onus of implementing such checks will fall on individual pornographic websites. Given that the government has not created its own verification system for websites to use, website operators will need to choose from a number of different age-checking software services on the market.

There are variations between suppliers with regards to how each company will verify customers. AgeChecked, for example, works by allowing customers to confirm their age securely via an anonymous username and password. In order to get the username and password, users must first age verify themselves. They can choose from a range of methods, utilising a mobile app, credit card or driving licence.

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Each time the user logs on to the website in question, they will not have to re-verify themselves in order to access it. Instead, they simply sign in as normal and they will be granted instant access. This way, compliant age checks can be carried out without disrupting the user’s journey.

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Three key myths

“My data will be hacked or leaked”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the incoming legislation has triggered privacy fears. Will porn companies be able to link people’s identities to their porn preferences? This is a very valid concern.

The only way sure-fire way to avoid highly sensitive data leaking is to make sure that such data is not created in the first place. In this respect, it’s vital that all age verification systems are third-party providers (and not in any way affiliated with the porn sites themselves.)

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AgeChecked never stores personal information on its users and credentials are completely anonymised. When a user tries to access an age-restricted website or service, the website will only receive a simple ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ alert – nothing more.

“It’s just a censorship tool”
The whole point of the new age verification regulations is simply to prevent children from stumbling across pornographic content; these measures will not have any control over what content adults can and cannot view.

“People can bypass the system”
Online age verification works by implementing barriers that make it as difficult as possible for young children to stumble upon inappropriate or damaging adult content.

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Of course, there will always be a minority that tries to undermine these barriers, which is unfortunate but unavoidable. That’s why it’s so important that age-gating software does not work in silo; but rather plays a role in an overall solution. Underage access to adult content is a problem that needs support from both parents and government to be properly tackled going forward.

Looking ahead

Overall, while it is easy to become fixated on the pros and cons of the upcoming porn ban, what people need to remind themselves of is the core purpose of this legislation – to protect and prevent vulnerable youngsters from needlessly stumbling across this graphic, damaging content.

 

AgeChecked is just one of the companies which will be able to verify users’ ages.

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